NEWSMAKER: Mel Simon was shopping mall pioneer

December 26, 2009

Melvin Simon could see a revolution was brewing in retail in the mid-1950s.

A brand-new interstate highway system had green-lighted the rise of far-flung suburbs and a drive-everywhere car culture, and developers across the nation had begun building the first enclosed shopping centers.

Mel Simon

Simon, then in his mid-20s and freshly discharged from an Army posting at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, saw the writing on the mall.

The son of a New York City tailor had earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from City College in New York and was eager to put it to good use.

Simon, who died at 82 on Sept. 16, would do just that and along the way change how America shops. He was chairman emeritus of locally based Simon Property Group Inc., the nation’s largest owner of retail real estate.

He also was instrumental in the resurgence of downtown Indianapolis as a champion of Circle Centre mall in the mid-1990s and as a buyer of the financially strapped Indiana Pacers in the mid-1980s.

More recently, Simon had focused on philanthropic endeavors, including gifts of $10 million to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and $50 million for the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, including an endowment in honor of his late son Joshua Max Simon.•



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